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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 4607 ..

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Environment and Minister for Community Affairs) (3.39): Mr Speaker, the implications of an ageing population for all levels of government and the broad community are of course quite massive. Recent ABS population projections suggest that the number of people in the Canberra community aged 55 and over is predicted to rise from about 10 per cent today to about 30 per cent in the next 30 years. By contrast, the number of young people in the 0 to 15 age group is forecast to decline by about 10,000 during the same period.

The largest increases in our population will be in the number of people aged in the 60 to 69-age group, projected to increase by over 15,000 people, and the number of people aged over 70 years is projected to increase by about 9,100 people. Population projections also indicate that, within a decade or so, almost half of all ACT households will have only one person, and many of those will be aged over 50.

In its intergenerational report 2002, the Commonwealth government has quantified the financial impacts that an ageing population will have upon the nation. In particular, the report suggests that, as the Australian population ages, the cost to meet the needs of an ageing community is estimated to be around $17 billion per year.

The impact of an ageing population on the broader community has also been confirmed through the market research undertaken by this government as part of the work that we are doing for the social plan and separately through the recent spatial plan open forum.

Mr Speaker, the ageing predicament will be compounded by the so-called baby boomer generation, those people born between the late 1940s and early 1960s, who are expected to have greater demands for services and facilities than their predecessors. When the baby boomers reach retirement age, they will be the largest number of old people ever alive in Australia. They are also a group that has traditionally challenged ideas about society and they have assets, money and are generally healthy.

I would like to speak to three key themes that the government is focusing on in responding to the needs of an ageing population. These are healthy and meaningful ageing, housing for our older people and mature-age employment.

It is interesting that, in a recent conference on ageing in Perth, the award winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster Dr David Suzuki suggested that our society's predisposition of looking at the world as some sort of machine and our relationships with each other as simply an apparatus for doing business are what is propelling some people, particularly our older people, into despair. He argues that, while science has helped to develop all sorts of pills and devices to make life easier and longer, it emphasises distance and fragmentation.

Research undertaken by my advisory council on ageing has identified a number of contributors that are creating anguish in our older people. The broader community generally views older people in a negative way. Older people are often discriminated against in relation to employment opportunities, and many older people are discouraged from remaining active and continuing their contribution to family and community life. And of course, the premature ageing and death of our indigenous people offers a special challenge for us all.

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